Canadian author Greer makes his U.S. debut with a personable, tongue-in-cheek tale about a recovering addict and fledgling writer who reclaims his troubled past.
At 30, living alone on Lime Street in an unidentified city that really doesn’t sound like New York (despite numbered streets and a fancy modern art museum), Cameron Dobbs likes stories—especially those by losers like him, as he often notes. He goes to bars on Christmas to hear sad tales and to pick up desperate men. Aspiring author Cameron empathizes with the downtrodden, and his job at the Salvation Army (“Sally Ann”) puts him in touch with plenty of folks in the “loser animal kingdom.” On Thursdays he frequents a writing group at a chain store he calls BIG BAD BOOKS (“to avoid getting sued”). He refuses to read his own stories but grudgingly listens to other writers’ sorry tales: “These guys just love self-depreciation and mea culpa,” he notes. Cameron becomes involved in two real-life stories. First, the alpha female writer in his group hires him to spy on the man living above him, whom she believes is her estranged brother. Then Cameron finds out that one of Sally Ann’s former inmates, a cokehead suicide named Darrel Greene, has a sister with Down’s syndrome permanently committed to an institution in the city. Cameron, who liked Darrel “because he reminded me of me,” begins to visit June at the home, passing himself off as her long-lost brother. Eventually, the two nutty companions try to spring June from the facility (allusions to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest strictly intentional). Greer couches his tale as a Roman-enumerated journal, replete with details so earnestly human that it’s hard not to like Cameron, despite his entrenched use of the term “retard” and long-winded transcriptions of his tedious stories
A poignant idea, but the tricky execution doesn’t quite pull together all the emotional pieces.